ANNUAL SIKH FILM FESTIVAL 2004
The following films were screened in the 2004 festival.
Acting Our Age Directed by Gurinder K. Chadha
Wth the filmmaker's assistance, the residents of a home for elderly Sikh-Britons shoot their own video. They interview a wide range of subjects - from people on the streets to Members of Parliament. This spirited video reveals generational attitudes, cross-cultural values and everyday problems faced by older, often neglected citizens. Ultimately, with passion and dignity, they prove that it's never too late to take matters into your own hands.
Alone Together Directed by Suman Bhuchar
This film is a portrait of the twin sisters, Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh who comprise a unique artistic partnership. They live in North England where they paint in the Mughal miniature tradition, but have given a contemporary twist to the slyte and have thus created a new genre of their own. Their work depicts Sikhs and other British immigrants in their day-to-day environment in England, and offers their perspective of the world. The film follows the twins working together on a painting that re-interprets the popular Britannia image, and in the process creates a tribute to the late Princess of Wales. At the International Festival of Art Films and Artists' Biographies, 2001 in Italy, the film was awarded the Best Film on Art Prize.
American Made Directed by Sharat Raju
Stranded in the middle of the desert on its way to the Grand Canyon, a Sikh-American family has only one hope - the occasional car that drives by. The father, Anant - who wears the traditional Sikh article of faith, the turban - sticks out his thumb as a car approaches, hoping someone will stop and help. When car after car fails to stop, Ranjit, the teenage son, declares that he believes no one will help them because his father looks like a terrorist, forcing the family to deal with issues of tradition, faith, conformity and sacrifice.
Gurdeep Singh Bains Directed by Beverley Shaffer
Gurdeep is a thirteen-year old Sikhl-Canadian whose family runs a dairy farm near Chilliwack, British Columbia. They have retained their language and religion. Attendance at the gurdwara, playing soccer with his schoolmates, and working on the farm are all part of Gurdeep's well-integrated life, but sometimes he feels a little different from the other children because he wears a turban.
Hawayein Directed by Ammtoje Singh Mann
The year is 1984. In New Delhi, India, a love story is interrupted by a sudden turn of events: the radio blares out news of Mrs Gandhi's assasination stemming from her storming of The Golden Temple of Amritsar a mere five months earlier. The city and the country turn ugly. Mobs, led by political leaders belonging to the government in power, scour the streets identifying Sikhs and their households and murdering their innocent residents in cold blood, in the tens of thousands, in cities and towns across the country. The film explores the further spiral of violence unleashed through a strengthening freedom movement for an independent Khalistan, attrocities committed by the police and the military in an attempt to terrorize the population into submission.
I'm British But... Directed by Gurinder K. Chadha
I'm British But ... uncovers a defiant popular culture - a synthesis part Sikh/South Asian, part British. The film represents a strident new perspective on nationalism. "The evolution of British Bhangra music," says Chadha, "marks the beginning of the end of British national chauvinism for those of us who have been brought up here. It has helped us define ourselves as a migrant community with a musical language of our own, created by us, for us, but open for enjoyment by all."
Keeping the Faith Directed by Harvind Kaur
This film helps to de-mystify the turban (dastaar) and answers the questions everyone has but may be afraid to ask. There is also a quick "how-to" segment which shows a young Sikh male demonstrating the art of tying a turban. This short documentary was produced to assist both Sikhs and non-Sikhs to understand the significance of this important article of faith.
Mother India Directed by Salina Kaur Uberoi
It is no wonder that Safina Kaur made a film about her family: she has a Sikh father from India who collects kitsch calendars, an Australian mother who hangs her knickers out to dry in front of the horrified Indian neighbours, a grandfather who was a self-styled guru and a fiercely man-hating grandmother. What begins as a quirky and humorous documentary about an eccentric, multicultural upbringing unfolds into a complex commentary on the social, political and religious events leading up to the anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984 India which tore this family apart. This is a powerful tale of love and hate, exile and belonging, loss of identity and return to faith.
Passage from India Directed by Ali Kazimi
For the hopeful British subjects of the Indian sub-continent at the turn of the 20th Century, Canada was a confusing place of strict and discriminating laws. But still, the uncertainties offered more than what was left behind. In this film, internationally acclaimed director Ali Kazimi explores the dreams and efforts of one of those early Sikh immigrants to Canada, Bagga Singh, as well as the Sikh-Canadian families that continue to bear his name and the friends who remember his legacy.
Roots in the Sand Directed by Jayasri Majumdar Hart
This is a multigenerational portrait of 5,000 Sikh men who settled in Southern California's Imperial Valley, just north of the Mexican border, a century ago. Seeking to earn enough money to return to their homes in India, they instead encountered not just abysmal wages and working conditions, but also discriminatory laws that prevented Sikh women from joining them in the States. Roots in the Sand details how these pioneers pooled their resources, leased land, and grew their own crops even as they married Mexican women and started new families. Through the use of found footage, archival and family photographs, filmmaker Jayasri Hart tells the touching and inspirational story of a community that grew out of a struggle for economic survival in the face of hardship and prejudice.
Sweet Jail: The Sikhs of Yuba City Directed by Beheroze Shroff
Shot in the 1980s, Sweet Jail explores the immigrant experience of Nand Kaur and her family in Yuba City, Northern California. She came to Yuba City in the early 1920s, when very few female Asian immigrants could enter the country. While Nand Kaur describes her life as a pioneer woman, her daughters and grandson - as well as the latter's bride from England - bring their own perspectives to life in Yuba City within a rapidly expanding Sikh-American community. The film's conclusion gives a voice to Sikh-American farmers who have toiled on the ranches of California for a century.
Turbans Directed by Erika Surat Andersen
Based on the memoirs of the filmmaker's grandmother, Turbans explores the inner struggles of a Sikh-American family torn between their cultural and religious traditions on the one hand and the desire for social acceptance in America. Although born in the USA, the Singh brothers are attacked for being different. The turbans they wear - an article of faith sacred to their religion - serve to identify them as outsiders in the bigoted landscape of Astoria, Oregon, circa 1918. Turbans has won awards at the Wortdfest-Houston, LA Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival and the USA Film Festival.
Warrior Saints & Regeneration Directed by John Das, Tommy Nagra
This is a two-part landmark documentary commissioned by the BBC to mark the 300th Anniversary of the Khalsa. It paints a vivid and compelling portrait of the Sikh community worldwide. The series was filmed in India, the UK, Canada and the USA and was over a year in the making. The first film looks at the emergence of Sikhs in the 15th century, with its teachings of justice, social hanmony, peace and equality of all people, regardless of religion, creed, race or gender. It traces how Sikhism further developed in the face of persecution, culminating in the founding of the Khalsa. This part also looks at two of the Sikh community's most traumatic experiences of the 20th century - the Partition of the Punjab in 1947, and the storming of The Golden Temple of Amritsar at Mrs. Gandhi's behest in 1984 and the subsequent mass killings of innocent Sikhs throughout India. The second film sees how Sikhism is revitalizing itself at the turn of the millennium, from young Sikhs rediscovering their faith, to the growth of Western converts to Sikhism.